Happy New Year! With the holidays behind you and the new year ahead, what better time to shake off that holiday excess with some incredible winter activities on Vancouver Island? The best thing about winter on the island? We’re not known for our long white winters and that means that it is a perfect place to indulge in many outdoor adventures all year-round. Hike or cycle one of the many incredible trails that wind all across the island. For the experienced surfers, you can find excellent surfing nearby, especially in the winter. And if you are looking for a winter wonderland, you can head north to one of the top Alpine Resorts in Canada. We really do have it all.
Vancouver Island is world renowned for its incredible, natural beauty and with so many trails all over the island, it’s easy for everyone to get out there, no matter your skill level. No matter what level of cyclist you are, you won’t be disappointed with a ride along the Galloping Goose Trail or the ‘Goose’ as locals call it. This 55 kilometer, excellently maintained, popular trail begins downtown Victoria and winds its way west through Metchosin, Sooke and then heads north to end at the top of Sea to Sea Regional Park. While you won’t be able to do the entire trail in one day, it’s so long you can quickly access this trail no matter if you’re staying at Victoria at Reef Executive Condo or Metchosin at Arbutus Hill or Sooke at Pacific Coast Beach House and Suite and experience different parts of this incredible trail. Just north of Victoria and for anyone staying at Heron’s Landing, the Lochside Trail is a picturesque, multi-use trail that stretches from the tip of the peninsula at Swartz Bay and connects to the Galloping Goose in downtown Victoria. On this trail you can experience the Saanich peninsula’s beaches, agriculture, wetlands and rural neighbourhoods. From urban to rural to wilderness, if you’re looking for a great way to experience the natural beauty of the West Coast on a bike, there’s no better way to do it than from either the Goose or Lochside. Adventurers take note! If you’re cycling in the winter, you’ll want to make sure that you have appropriate gear – find out how to prepare for a winter cycle on the West Coast here.
If you’d prefer to explore on two feet rather than two wheels, both the Galloping Goose and Lochside are good options as they both provide hikers with easily accessible, well maintained trails. But for those of you looking to get a little off the beaten track, there are lots of trails just north of Victoria, right nearby the Nature’s Gate Executive Home that are sure to impress.The Cowichan Valley Trans Canada Trail is a whopping 132 kilometers of well-packed gravel that is easy to ride, walk or jog along. Mostly following old CN rail lines, this section of the Trans Canada Trail winds through BC’s lush temperate rainforest that is home to some of the world’s tallest trees. You can find more information about the trail including maps and trail closures here and if you need information about the trail sections, parking and rest-stops you can find all that here. Just a 5 minute drive from the Malahat Mountain House is Spectacle Lake, a perfect fit for those looking for a more easy-going hike and for anyone who loves to fish. This trail is flat, well maintained and loops around the beautiful lake with plenty of places to stop and drop a line. If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better hike than the popular Cobble Hill Mountain. Just a beautiful 10 minute drive from Cowichan Bay Oceanfront Estate, Cobble HIll Mountain is made up of 26 kilometers of well maintained, signed trails ranging in difficulty so finding the right trail for you is easy. The trails will lead you through multiple ecosystems and breathtaking views of the Cowichan Valley. Come find out how the locals stay in shape!
You don’t have to fly to Hawaii or Australia to get in some great winter surfing – although it will be a little colder! If you’re an experienced surfer and are ready to brave the icy waters, you can catch some excellent waves right here on Vancouver Island. Tofino and Uculet are surfing hotspots but you might be surprised to hear that south Vancouver Island has some killer waves too! Only 30 minutes from Pacific Coast Beach House, 45 from Station Villa Executive Condo and an hour from Arbutus Hill is Vancouver Island’s hidden surfing gem, Jordan River. This tiny little community on the edge of the Pacific Ocean offers up some incredible views and even more incredible surfing. Just a little farther north is Sombrio Beach. Sombrio has great surfing at any tide level and offers a beach and reef break, which provides more consistent waves than Jordan River. With waves that can range from 2ft to 10ft, unpredictable conditions, freezing water and Pacific Ocean currents, neither Jordan River nor Sombrio are good spots for a novice. For those of you who feel at home on the waves, keep a close eye on the surf conditions here and here and don’t forget to grab your booties, gloves and hood – you’re going to need them!
We may not be known for our white winters but when we do get the occasional snowfall, Victorians really take advantage of it in one of the best ways – sledding! So when the snow starts to stick, Victoria is a great place for the young and young-at-heart to bundle up and head to the nearest slope. Not far from Dalmeny Farm Estate, the famous Beacon Hill Park has acres of meandering groves of oak trees, ponds, gardens, moss covered boulders and one of the top sledding hills in Victoria! What could be better than a beautiful, snowy walk through the park and an afternoon of sledding? Just a short drive from Barkley Manor Executive you’ll find the Cedar Hill Golf Course which is another very safe, easygoing, fun hill to go sledding. Because it’s a golf course, you’ll find the area excellently manicured with no hidden rocks or brambles to get stuck in, plus there’s plenty of parking to make the trip that much easier. Without snow, Mount Tolmie is known for its steep, rocky incline but with a thick blanket of snow, it’s an ideal place to go for those looking for a more thrilling sledding experience but there are some gentler options for younger ones that may go with you. If you’re staying at EMR (Oak Bay/Rockland/Uplands), the Victoria Golf Club is a great spot for a sledding adventure! Like Cedar Hill, Victoria Golf Club is a manicured slope that means it’s super safe for all ages. Afterwards, you can stroll through historic Oak Bay village and check out the local shops and grab some cocoa in a perfect wintry village. If you’re really desperate for a proper snowy adventure, don’t despair! Mt Washington Alpine Resort has everything you could want from an alpine resort, great skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and sledding. If you’re coming from Victoria, you’re looking at a 3.5 hour drive to get there but if you’re staying at Kye Bay Winter Beach House, you’re only a 40 minutes from a winter wonderland!
No matter what you’re into, biking, hiking, surfing or snow, Vancouver Island has the perfect adventure just for you!